Sunday, November 24, 2013

An Edublog Nomination


Think Like a Teacher



I am nominating a blog for an Edublog award: Best Individual Blog.

The blog, Think Like A Teacher (The TeachersFirst Editors Blog) is a great blog for dissection of various topics in education. This blog is affiliated with the non-profit TeachersFirst, and is a free resource for teachers.

Why do I like this blog? The message is always clear with clever writing to promote thinking about the classroom and everyone's role in it. Her thinking is our thinking. As the originator of #Eduwin, her blog celebrates the everyday successes of the classroom while encouraging Teachers to step out of our comfort zone just a little bit more!


 Because we all Think Like A Teacher!



*I have been woefully behind on blogging for some time, taking instead to a few tweets on Twitter or posts on Facebook with items that I have been reading. My reasons are varied: same conversations over and over, not enough time to formulate posts, and a bit deflated with the test prep culture that has taken hold of the Biology class that I teach. Maybe I should start again.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Meatless Meals...

I have been making meatless meals for some time and when the opportunity to preview a new cookbook came along, I took the opportunity to try some new recipes!

Miriam, who blogs over at Meatless Meals for Meat-eaters has a very easy to use and sure to please any appetite cookbook!

I had a chance to look at some of the recipes and make a plan to try them the next weekend. Fortunately, my daughter also came home at that time and she loves to cook!  We tried several of the recipes and I can say that they are easy to follow and make which is really important many days. They also are very tasty. I have a son who is very picky about textures and tastes and he liked every recipe that was made!

So what did we make?

Banana Berry French Toast

This was so good. You can use any berries you have on hand (cranberries were a bit tart but they were still so good!) Definitely a keeper of a recipe.

Chickpea, Broccoli, and Quinoa Casserole

This was tasty and my son loved it. Very filling and the leftovers did not last long! I can see many other grains being substituted if you need to in a pinch.

Cream of Cauliflower and Potato Soup and Chinese Cashew Vegetable Stir-fry

This was a great meal on a day it turned cold again! The soup has a great taste and so easy to make. I took the leftovers for lunch the next day. My daughter made the soup and it was so easy. I had to make the stir fry as well (had ingredients that needed used.) I am glad I did. The leftovers were just as good later as they were the day it was made.

This is a great book for those looking for more Meatless meals or for those who are not quite sure where to begin on their Meatless journey!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Monitoring performance

Though techie in nature, I am not app crazy like most. I really prefer to use non-tech means and making my own decisions (rating matter a bit to me but are not the sole reason for purchases, etc.)

So as I look at all the fitness devices and apps out there, I think often about buying them but haven't. I do not have a heart rate monitor or other various devices (I don't even use the ones that are on my stationary bike.) I do however know that biofeedback is important and will probably purchase a device (not two or three) that will give me some feedback in how I am doing health-wise.

So I read with interest an article about Keeping Detailed Health Records and one person's experience with these devices and apps. In particular the brief discussion about the Hawthorne effect whereas a person or organization improves when they know they are being evaluated or observed. As a teacher. I know how my behavior changes a little when an administrator is in the room. The article gives a perfect example of how sports performance changes when we know the coach or instructor is looking.

The article details how perfection can cause us to try to obtain new numbers and get more data. A quote from the article caught my attention:

That's when I realized my tracking had veered seriously off track. Gary Wolf, co-founder of a user's group called Quantified Self, had warned me this might happen. "The magic is not in how many numbers you collect or how devoted you are to collecting them," he told me over the phone. "The secret is using the data in a meaningful way." Tracking, he explained, should help you reach your goals, not be a goal unto itself. Not only had I lost sight of this, but I had crossed the line into obsession.

That's when I realized my tracking had veered seriously off track. Gary Wolf, co-founder of a user's group called Quantified Self, had warned me this might happen. "The magic is not in how many numbers you collect or how devoted you are to collecting them," he told me over the phone. "The secret is using the data in a meaningful way." Tracking, he explained, should help you reach your goals, not be a goal unto itself. Not only had I lost sight of this, but I had crossed the line into obsession.

"The magic is not in how many numbers you collect or how devoted you are to collecting them, the secret is using the data in a meaningful way." Tracking...should help you reach your goals, not be a goal unto itself.

As I think about data-driven anything in schools, I wonder if we have crossed into some obsession. Our school schedule is disrupted 25 days a year for testing. Lost time with students. From the top down (No child left behind/race to the top), data (tests) have been the goals and not data to help us reach actual goals that matter.

I still intend to purchase a device to learn more about my body and my health. It will inform me in order to help improve my health and fitness, but I will not use the data as the goal itself.

Now about the train wreck that is the current education reforms...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Learning to seek instead of search

From Alan Levine and oh so right on the mark:

“Kids” are given some assignment and want to get it done as fast as possible, to satisfy what is being set in front of them. They give the top results…because the question they are asked to “research” does not matter much to them.

When we talk of searching, we are talking the basic most bottom of the pyramid structure motivational task. Frankly, I don;t care if kids can “search”– I want to know what happens when they seek.

and

Kids can’t search because the questions we are asking are not big enough. Let’s stop patting ourselves on our backs for our critical thinking superiority.

And it’s not just kids, folks it is you too, when you ask questions rather than seek answers. For a large chunk of my career, especially in the last decade, most of my reputation for knowing something about technology came because people would call ro email asking a question, I would google the results, and send them a summary and links. I was not answering their question at all, but was seeking the answers. And it did matter to me because I wanted to help them.

About education (what else...?)

With direct instruction, focusing on standards, and test scores being held over our heads, I have let much of the creative, project based, and interesting parts of my last few years of teaching go. I am not happy about this and should be more of an outlier, but also worry about being labeled a poor teacher.

Nonetheless, I am still struggling on how to balance both of these approaches to education in the continually shrinking time that I have with students.

Some great posts about the decline of quality education through Race to The Top and Common Core can be found in this open letter to Bill Gates and this post about lack of innovation with scripted curriculum. Those of us who have been teaching for some time know the effects that standardized tests have had on eduction over the last decade. In the post, High Stakes Testing = Negative Effects..., great research is put together in a powerful post that shows we have been headed in the wrong direction and need to stop. And Vicki Davis likens Standardized Testing as Modern Day Bloodletting - love her posts! With all the research and those who are experts in education discussing this, when will those "making the decisions stop and listen? And when did we become a nation that stopped listening to the people who actually know what they are talking about (of course I am talking about anti-science and anti-education sentiment that seems to be sweeping the country.)

And then you have to be inspired by this post about a principal who has been working for 48 years and has the following quote about teaching kids:

She has outlasted more than a dozen schools chancellors, who made what she described as “little changes here and there,” and watched a student body dominated by the children of Italian immigrants transform into one that is 45 percent Asian-American and 18 percent Hispanic.

But as the city embarks on an overhaul of its middle schools, Mrs. Brennan believes that what works remains the same. Consistent rules and consequences. A dedicated, hard-working staff. A calendar stuffed with activities like a Shakespeare fair and an annual musical. Sincere care for your charges.

Maintaining the status quo

So those who really know me know that I maintain what I need to do to get along but that I have very different values than many. Generally they have anything that has to do with the status quo. If it makes them uncomfortable then good. It is a sign that it is something that needs to be talked about but more importantly acted upon. I would rather make others uncomfortable than stand back and watch.

The events that have occurred at Penn State only serve to really throw these to the forefront. It was disheartening to see the reactions from many about it without really confronting what is wrong today. Very few schools really do a good job at stopping the bullying and other societal problems going on as it is pervasive in their towns and societies themselves. As long as we hide under the guise of "kids will be kids" and "people need a tougher skin" while allowing those revered by their status to get away with it only perpetuates more generations of the same.

Some interesting posts caught my eye that range from how sports have skewed college for everyone to the role of athletics and athletes in some high schools.

How morally wrong are we as a society that we forgot people who are abused, bullied, or harassed and focus instead on anger to those who are reprimanded for maintaining the status quo? Some interesting posts of viewpoints from readers can be found in the post Something is Rotten here at Penn State and this post that quotes

All they need is for good people to look the other way. And a cult of authority that never challenges...

I am very disheartened about not only these events but things I hear and see in communities. 19% of teens have been harassed or bullied according to this study. When did we forget that every person has value? What gives one person the right to determine the value of another? Why do we need more generations to have to go through this? and when will the adults stand and speak up, do what is right, and model better behavior?


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On being individual...

I am not sure of the relatedness of this post to education, but find it fascinating on individuality not only in our own lives but of what we do not understand about snowflakes. Really, we were taught that no two snowflakes are alike but it turns out that it is actually false. Its move through the atmosphere shapes it into what it becomes.

If people and experiences shape kids over time, what happens if the current school reformers remove every aspect that can shape students into individuals? I am convinced that focusing on testing will drive the experiences that light up students away from them as well as some of the best teachers that help guide and shape. What environments should they have as they tumble their way through life? And now, school is so far not the place where students can shape their lives. I firmly stand behind the idea that school is the worst place for students to be. They need adults and experiences to shape their lives but school is no longer that place where it comes together.

Read this portion taken in its entirety from the above blog post:

In 1988, a cloud scientist named Nancy Knight (at the National Center for Atmospheric Research—let’s not defund it) took a plane up into the clouds over Wisconsin and found two simple but identical snow crystals, hexagonal prisms, each as like the other as one twin to another, as Cole Sprouse is like Dylan Sprouse. Snowflakes, it seems, are not only alike; they usually start out more or less the same.

Yet if this notion threatens to be depressing—with the suggestion that only the happy eye of nineteenth-century optimism saw special individuality here—one last burst of searching and learning puts a brighter seasonal spin on things. “As a snowflake falls, it tumbles through many different environments,” an Australian science writer named Karl Kruszelnicki explains. “So the snowflake that you see on the ground is deeply affected by the different temperatures, humidities, velocities, turbulences, etc, that it has experienced on the way.” Snowflakes start off all alike; their different shapes are owed to their different lives.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What is at stake about Wikileaks

Andrew Sullivan's quote of the day:

"Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from Internet … their funds have been frozen … media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization. What is really going on here is a war over control of the Internet, and whether or not the Internet can actually serve its ultimate purpose—which is to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions," – Glenn Greenwald.

I charge that many need to learn to critically think and separate out issues first. There is more than one issue in regards to Wikileaks. I for one agree that transparency brings to light practices that need to be stopped. The world has the right to know these. For those that do not like Wikileaks publishing material it receives, this type of activity will not stop.

Why test scores fall in later grades

A fascinating post from over at Assorted Stuff. Teachers have often said that focusing on test prep in younger grades will leave out information students will need later.

From the post:

But by 10th grade, being a good reader no longer means being a good decoder. Most kids are good decoders by this time. Instead, reading tests emphasize comprehension, and comprehension is mostly driven by prior knowledge–knowing a little bit about the subject matter at hand. (I’ve emphasized the importance of prior knowledge in reading here and here.)

All that time spent on decoding in the early grades, (and time not spent on history, geography, science, music, art, etc.) comes back to haunt kids in 10th grade and beyond.

and

According to Willingham, “a parallel phenomenon is happening in math” where we push drilling rudimentary algorithms at the expense of understanding mathematical concepts.

In the end, he comes to the very logical conclusion that, if we expect high school students to do well in those international comparisons, “the work must begin in early elementary school”.

Snake oil and education

Read Marion Brady's article about standardized snake oil.

This part really cuts to the heart:

Standardized, subject-matter tests are worse than a waste. We’re spending billions of dollars and instructional hours on a tool that measures one thought process to the neglect of all others, wreaks havoc on the minds and emotions of teachers and learners, and diverts attention from a fundamental, ignored problem.

That problem? Longshoreman and college professor Eric Hoffer summed it up a lifetime ago. Because the world is dynamic, the future belongs not to the learned but to learners.

Read that sentence again. Then read it again. Even if standardized tests didn’t cost billions, even if they yielded something that teachers didn’t already know, even if they hadn’t narrowed the curriculum down to joke level, even if they weren’t the main generators of educational drivel, even if they weren’t driving the best teachers out of the profession, they should be abandoned because they measure the wrong thing.

The future belongs not to the learned but to learners. American education isn’t designed to produce learners, and the proof of that contention is the standardized test.

America’s system of education is designed to clone the learned. And motivated either by ignorance or greed, the wealthy and powerful, using educationally na├»ve celebrities as fronts, are spending obscene amounts of money to convince politicians, pundits, policymakers, and the public that this is a good and necessary thing.

Thus far, they’ve been wildly successful. If they’re not stopped, those now sitting in our classrooms won’t just witness America’s descent into Third World status, they’ll accelerate it.

The fundamental, ignored problem? Poverty. Again, since we cannot discuss what is really important, because we are afraid to look in in the eye and ask ourselves the toughest questions about what we believe, look at what we are choosing to value instead.